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Soy May Help Protect Lung Cancer Patients From Side Effects of Radiation, Initial Study on Mice

From the November 2013 issue of Journal of Thoracic Oncology

Radiotherapy is a common treatment for patients with non–small-cell lung cancer. However, the side effects can include skin injury, hair loss, increased breathing rates, inflammation of the lung and fibrosis. Researchers from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute wanted to know if using soy isofavones would decrease toxicity. Their findings are published in the November issue of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s journal, the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO).

Soy isoflavones are nontoxic dietary plant estrogens extracted from soy beans and anti-cancer agents, as demonstrated in controlled clinical trials. They can also act as antioxidants in normal tissues and protect them from treatment-induced toxicity.

The researchers treated mice with oral soy isoflavones for three days before and up to four months after radiation. Their results showed that soy isoflavones given pre- and postradiation protected the lungs against adverse effects of radiation including skin injury, hair loss, increased breathing rates, inflammation, pneumonitis and fibrosis, providing evidence for a radioprotective effect of soy.

The authors say, “the use of soy isoflavones as radioprotectors is attractive because they were proven to be safe in controlled human clinical trials. Their experimental studies in animal models suggest that the addition of soy to radiotherapy might improve the effect of radiotherapy on the tumor target and reduce the dose-limiting toxicity of radiotherapy to the normal lung. If this proves to be the case, this simple, nontoxic, natural compound would radically improve the effectiveness of this new radiation treatment for inoperable non-small cell lung cancer.”

The lead author is Gilda Hillman. Dr. Shirish Gadgeel is a co-author and member of the IASLC. Based on these data, Dr. Gadgeel, who is also the leader of the multidisciplinary thoracic oncology team at Karmanos Cancer Institute/Wayne State University and Dr. Andre Konski, Chief of Radiation Oncology are about to start a clinical trial evaluating the addition of soy isoflavones to concurrent chemotherapy and radiation therapy for the treatment of stage III NSCLC patients.

About the IASLC
The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) is the only global organization dedicated to the study of lung cancer. Founded in 1974, the association’s membership includes more than 3,500 lung cancer specialists in 80 countries. To learn more about IASLC please visit
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